05 September 2010
Bama's 48-3 victory over San Jose State to open the 2010 season marked a happy return for college football to folks wearing Crimson. With all due respect to the big game coming on Monday, here are my thoughts from week one of the 2010 football season:
--- Holy crap did Florida's offense look bad! They had 26 total yards of offense at the end of three quarters... against Miami of Ohio. All that really matters for the Gators is that they won the game, but I doubt the jorts wearing nation is very happy with the way things went down in the swamp. After their final touchdown - the tip drill caught in the back of the end zone - the look on Urban Meyer's face was one that looked to be saying "we're not very good." It's a long season, and everyone had to expect a bit of post-Tebow struggle. But I don't think anyone anticipated that Florida would be incapable of executing the snap to the quarterback. They will doubtless get much better, and probably very quickly, but they've definitely shown a weakness.
--- The only thing worse than being a Florida fan right now is being an Ole Miss fan. It's pretty funny that Jack Crow got fired at Arkansas for losing to Division 1AA The Citadel, and now he essentially pulls the same trick on his former assistant Houston Nutt. Nutt sold his soul in bringing in Masoli. If the Rebels don't fix things quickly, their fan base will turn on him even quicker. What's really sad is that Nathan Stanley was playing well, and the whole Masoli thing seemed to be a giant distraction, even though he made some nice plays. In the end, though, there's simply no excuse for losing to an FCS team - ever. You think dropping one to Louisiana-Monroe was bad? (It was) Try dropping one to a team that La-Monroe would beat by three touchdowns. Oh, and this is exactly why Bama never needs to play UAB, Troy, West Alabama, South Alabama, North Alabama, or Jacksonville St. There's just nothing to gain.
--- I didn't get to see much (really any) of the Auburn game, but two things I did see made me a little curious:
- They gave up 26 points to Arkansas State. Really? The Tigers' offense is going to force their defense to play extra series, and that will sometimes allow a team to score more than they should. But Auburn gave up 366 yards of total offense, including better than 300 in the air. Guess they should really strive to have more than 25 minutes of possession.
- Cam Newton is a talented player, but the fact that he took snaps in the fourth quarter is ridiculous. I know that the game wasn't completely out of hand, but that indicates a whole different problem. Newton carried the ball a lot, and that's not something that many quarterbacks can get away with in the SEC. It eventually caught up to Tim Tebow in Lexington last year, and if the Auburn staff plans to run him as much as they did Saturday night, they should probably look at getting his backup some snaps.
I'm sure the Tiger faithful are pumped about scoring 52 points - they should be. And I'm sure we'll hear lots of crowing on the internet and on talk radio about them outscoring Bama. Unfortunately for them, their defense had more holes in it than warehouse full of donuts. They've got a short week to prepare for an offense just as gimmicky as their own. First one to 50 wins in Starkville on Thursday night?
--- A nice beginning for Derrick Dooley. I hate Tennessee, but I'm happy for him that he had one nice game in what is likely to be a long season in Knoxville. Now I hope they lose the rest of their games.
--- Robbie Caldwell found out that it's a hell of a lot harder to be a head coach in a game than it is to crack funny one-liners at SEC media days. I know that Vandy's defense is their strength, but with just over 2 minutes left in a game, if you only have two timeouts, you don't kick deep. North Carolina had the exact same situation, and they recovered their on-side kick. Vandy should have tried one of their own.
--- Speaking of LSU and North Carolina... Butch Davis pulled a Les Miles on their final drive. After picking up their first 1st Down on the drive, the Tar Heels let 9 seconds tick off of the clock without snapping it, and then got a false start penalty. I guess they didn't realize that the clock would start again as soon as the penalty was marked off. Another five seconds was lost without a snap. Think those combined 14 seconds might have been big at the end? Maybe Butch Davis should have had his nanny "tutoring" him on the sidelines. Some of the blame falls to the quarterback, but he still had both timeouts, and once he saw that they weren't ready to get a snap off within five seconds, he should have called one.
Having said all of that, Les Miles has to be feeling a little toasty on his backside. On top of the LSU debacle last year, a loss here might have actually started the wheels turning to get him fired. And if the UNC tight end makes one of the two catches at the end of the game that he should have, we might be saying goodbye to "The Hat." The fact that Patrick Peterson told ESPN that the reason he wasn't in the game when UNC scored their 97 yard touchdown because, "the coaches thought we had the game in hand" won't help him any, either.
--- Seeing Oklahoma struggle with Utah State and Texas struggle with Rice should help you feel really good about the Bama game. If you'll think back a few years, Bama really struggled with this type of game. Forget the La-Monroe loss (I've tried), but think about the close wins over Florida International and Duke. Bama took care of business.
Which brings me to the Bama game, which is, of course, the reason you're reading.
As I said, Bama took care of business. The Tide needed to come out strong and dominate their opponent. And that's exactly what happened. The challenged will get harder in the coming weeks, so it was important for this team to get an easy one out of the way. With the back half of the schedule loaded with the "bye week half dozen", it's imperative that Bama get out of this type of game with as little mental strain and physical beating as possible. The starters were all done by midway through the third quarter, but the game was over by the end of the first quarter.
It was a big deal to me that Bama opted to take the football when it won the opening toss. It was an even bigger deal when the Tide marched down the field in eight plays and put a touchdown on the board. That set the tempo for the entire night, and to some extent, the entire season. The first defensive possession was the worst of the night, but SJSU got very little after that.
San Jose State is a bad football team, and Bama is a good one. The scoreboard reflected that, but so did the actual flow of the game. The Tide played without its biggest playmaker on both sides of the ball, and they still managed to dominate. It was a nice night for the Tide, and here's the quick rundown of what I took from the game:
--- No major injuries. Courtney Upshaw might miss a practice or two, but he's expected to be good to go next Saturday. Seeing him collect himself and go back to the huddle showed a lot. Seeing him wave off the trainer showed even more. Seeing him grab Ed Stinson, turn him around, and push him back towards the sidelines showed even more than that. Thankfully Coach Saban didn't relent, and they got him off of the field. But Courtney showed some extreme mental and physical toughness on that play, and probably made a few extra fans in the process.
--- Greg McElroy "officially" tied the school record (his own) for completion percentage. I put that in quotes because I have a hunch we might see the stats corrected to reflect a mistake. The official final stats show him 13 of 15, but he actually attempted 16 passes, with three of them going incomplete. He had one pass dropped by Julio, one that he forced into double coverage downfield, and one that was caught out of bounds by Marquis Maze. The forced throw downfield was immediately prior to the lone sack allowed by the Tide, and the official play by play credits the incompletion to A.J. McCarron. Bama didn't change quarterbacks on any drive during the game, so the play by play and the computer generated box score that comes from that play by play are both wrong.
It was still a fantastic night for Greg. He was very accurate with his throws, and did a great job of going through his progressions. On Bama's final drive of the first half he twice checked down to Darius Hanks over the middle. I don't know whether Hanks was the second or fourth option, but he certainly wasn't the first option. When Greg was playing well last season, he was doing this. All reports from fall camp indicated that he was vastly improved over last year, and this could be an indication of that. He'll have to show consistency in it to prove it, but it was a good start.
His best play of the night wasn't the long throw to Marquis Maze, either. On a 3rd and 12 in the first quarter he got flushed from the pocket and looked to run up-field. As he neared the line of scrimmage, Trent Richardson move in front of him, and he flipped the ball casually to Trent, who went on to pick up the first down. Greg likely would not have been fast enough to get the yards needed, and it was a very heady play to get the ball into Trent's hands.
--- Speaking of Trent, he looked great. He showed great vision on his long touchdown run, and that's the big thing separating him from Mark Ingram at this point. Mark made a huge jump from his freshman to his sophomore season, and better vision on the field was the key to that. Again, Trent will have to demonstrate consistency, but he made a really great lateral move on that long run, and it was very reminiscent of several of Mark's runs last season. If he has developed that vision, Bama's one-two punch in the backfield will be even better.
He also did a much, much better job of blitz pickup. On the long pass to Maze, he made a great read and gave McElory the room to step up and make the throw. That's a block he probably doesn't make last year. I've said it a number of times, but it bears repeating -- Bama has a lot of talented assistant coaches on this staff, but Burton Burns is probably the best.
--- Don't believe that last statement? Did you watch Eddie Lacy and Demetrius Goode? Granted both guys were playing against a physically beaten defense in the second half, but they both looked great. Eddie had the one turnover, but he actually made an adjustment to the way he was carrying the ball after that. it was nice to see the redshirt freshman make an in-game adjustment like that. He learned a valuable lesson, and did it in a game that Bama could afford for him to get it in.
The burst he showed on his long touchdown run was impressive. The safety had the angle on him, and Eddie just exploded through the hole and gave the guy no chance. We got to see a little of his vaunted spin move, and it is fun to see. He'll need to be careful when playing better defenses, but this kid is a real talent. He also did a nice job in blitz pickup.
Demetrius Goode gained better than 20 pounds in the offseason, and it shows on the field. He looked like a different back. Not only was he bouncing off of tackles, but he showed Ingram-like tenacity on a play where he literally crawled for five or six yards. He'll have to prove he can do that against an SEC caliber defense, but you can count me as impressed by the difference I saw in him. Again, credit Burton Burns.
--- There was obviously a concerted effort to get Julio Jones involved in the offense. Bama's first three pass plays were called in his direction, along with a run out of the wildcat. He had the one terrible dropped pass, but made up for that with the spectacular one handed touchdown grab.
Interesting to note - the first play of the game was a bubble screen to him in the flat. That's a nice play call, because it's a safe play and works as a confidence booster to the quarterback. What makes it interesting is that it was also the play that Bama ran in A.J. McCarron's first snap.
--- McCarron looked really good, too. He's got a quick release, and looked very collected in the pocket in front of 100,000 fans for the first time. He's still behind Greg, but it's great to know that a kid that talented is on the sidelines if needed. And it was even more great that he got to play as much as he did. I was thrilled to see the staff get him in the game early, and even more thrilled to see him continuing to throw the ball in the second half. We've seen Bama go into a shell and avoid giving the appearance that they are running up the score, but A.J. needed to throw more passes. It was also nice to see him get time with the first unit offense. Too often backup QBs only get to play with the backups, and that's not as high quality preparation as playing with the 1s.
--- The defense allowed two plays of greater than 10 yards in the game. One was the big 34 yard rush on the first possession that got a 15 yard penalty tacked onto the end. The other was a busted coverage on a nice play-fake by SJSU. Otherwise, the Tide contained the Spartans' offense all night. The secondary that we were all worried about performed well, with the exception of the one play. And we pretty much saw everyone who will play. Only Wesley Neighbors didn't play among the eligible scholarship defensive backs, and that was because of injury. That's big for down the line.
--- Coach Saban indicated that Brandon Moore did not play due to a secondary NCAA violation that occurred last season. He was required to sit one game, and a player can not redshirt to avoid serving the suspension. So Brandon sat out the game. He'll be eligible to go again against Penn State.
--- While Damion Square got the start in Marcell Dareus's place, a lot of guys played on the defensive line. The most interesting thing was that every time Bama sent Kerry Murphy into the game, they also sent Undra Billingsley in. In that personnel group, we saw Billingsley play the nose guard and Murphy play end. Very interesting, and worth keeping an eye on down the road.
--- The kickers did well. The return game did not. In all fairness, the SJSU punter did a nice job of getting good hang time and kicking away from the Bama return men. Replacing Javier Arenas won't be easy, and we all got a stark reminder of that.
Cade Foster put all but one kickoff inside the five yard line, with five of his kicks going into the end zone. Even better, he got solid height on his kicks, and only twice was SJSU able to return them past the 20 yard line. One of those actually saw Foster make the tackle. Gone are the days of Leigh Tiffin diving out of the way and hoping to slow the returner down enough for someone else to catch him. Foster played linebacker in high school and it showed when he squared his shoulders and tackled the return man - with emphasis.
Cade also made two field goals (41 yards and 24yards), and also made an extra point. The last two kicks were the big ones for him, because up until that point, we were seeing Jeremy Shelley handle the PATs, and expected to see him kick the shorter field goals. The 41 yarder is big for confidence, and demonstrates his leg strength. But the fact that the staff let him kick the two shorter kicks indicates that he might be building confidence in the staff, and that's a good thing.
Cody Mandell won the punting job and also had a nice day. The 18 yard mis-hit on his final punt was unfortunate, but he clearly has a big leg. His other two punts were in excess of 50 yards and had really good hang time. He was trying to angle the third punt into the corner, and simply hit it too far left. He'll have some inconsistencies, but I think everyone was thrilled to see those first two punts turn over.
--- Add another four quarters to the offensive line's streak of not committing a holding penalty. That's 10 straight games, dating backing to October 3rd of last year at Kentucky, without a holding call on an offensive lineman. Kudos to Joe Pendry for that.
--- C.J. Mosley is the true freshman everyone will be talking about, and for good reason. He looked great in his second half action. Not only was he making plays, but he was in the right position to make those plays. He was playing the mike linebackers, and there wasn't much drop off from Dont'a Hightower when he came - at least not as much as there should have been. That's not a knock on Hightower, who played a solid game, but rather praise for Mosley who led the team in tackles. This kid is going to be really good.
--- The stadium looks absolutely beautiful. The south end zone having an upper deck isn't just asthetically pleasing, but it does make things much louder. When you consider that this wasn't a game where folks were likely to get really loud, it makes me wonder what things will sound like next Saturday.
Folks have been complaining about the ribbon boards not being used for stats or out of town scores, and hopefully the folks in the athletic department will listed and get something up there to give the fans what they want. And it's not an exaggeration to say that some of the ads were bright enough that it actually changed the lighting on the field.
The iron fence and brick walkway surrounding the field made a much bigger difference than I thought it would. It really adds a lot to the general look of the stadium.
Event management needs to work on getting folks into the new upper deck better, as there were reported delays of 20 minutes or so to get up the ramp into the new deck. It was the first game, so hopefully someone took notes and that will be corrected by next week.
--- I hope someone in Dr. Witt's office took a picture of the student section at the beginning of the third quarter. The students have done a lot of complaining about their limit of tickets, but a large portion of them couldn't be bothered to make it back for the second half. I know the game was basically over, but it's the principal of the matter. If you're going to whine for more seats, demonstrate why you deserve them. And seeing 15% of the section empty at half time is not the way to go about doing that.
--- I ran into Bama's newest commitment in mammoth Austrailian defensive lineman Jesse Williams, and that dude is scary looking. He's planning to graduate from his junior college in December and be here for spring practice. He could easily make a Terrence Cody like instant impact.
Next week's game will obviously have a different feel to it. Penn State is an historically great program, and Paterno is one of the greatest coaches in the history of all sports. The fact that Bobby Bowden will be at the game will make it a little cooler. The fact that it also happens to be Coach Bryant's birthday makes it a little funny. Throw in ESPN Game Day, the Tide being ranked #1, and the fact that the crowd should be pumped, and you've got the makings of what should be an amazing atmosphere.
I'm sure the team will have no problems staying focused and having an intense week of practice. On top of having our normal reports, we'll give you any updates on the health of Mark Ingram or the status of the appeal of Marcell Dareus's suspension.
|< Prev||Next >|